This systematic review included controlled clinical trials comparing tracheal intubation (TI) with alternative airway techniques (AAT) (bag-mask ventilation and use of extraglottic devices) performed by paramedics in the prehospital setting. A priori outcomes to be assessed were survival, neurologic outcome, airway management success rates and complications. We identified trials using EMBASE, MEDLINE, CINAHL, The Cochrane Library, Web of Science, author contacts and hand searching. We included 5 trials enrolling a total of 1559 patients. No individual study showed any statistical difference in outcomes between the TI and AAT groups. Because of study heterogeneity, we did not pool the data. This is the most comprehensive review to date on paramedic trials. Owing to the heterogeneity of prehospital systems, administrators of each system must individually consider their airway management protocols.